We seemed to have turned a corner as a society. I used to hold the view that teachers were ancient, staying in their teaching roles longer than they should have and only really sticking around for their ridiculously high salary instalments to come through while waiting to receive their cushy severances.
What I've come to realise now however is that my view was that of someone who really didn't understand the time and effort that went into preparing a class, or a teaching day. I also didn't understand the tremendous pressure that teachers were often under and the disproportionate reward for having to deal with that pressure.
The extermination of face to face teaching, at least post pre-school is right at our front door. Individualism and faceless social interactions are set to become the now - no longer a vague possibility. And it has me thinking, questioning whether or not as teachers do we really matter? Has the profession once held in high esteem, and those practicing it once respected as much or similarly to what doctors were become an unnecessary career path, that can now be performed by computer software, apps, online textbooks and digital curriculums? For me the answer is absolutely not.
Teachers are the connection between the facts, and how the facts impact the lives of our children. They take what is real and make it valuable, package and re-package it so that it offers kids a chance to turn that fact into something that works for them. Teachers are storytellers, weaving knowledge into tales that spark children's imaginations and inspire them to think about....what could be.
The digital world has brought us some amazing things - mostly access to information and groups of people that we would never have had the ability to access before. But it has also brought with it some negative aspects of humanity as well. Cyber-bullying, social interactions without emotional, spiritual, or physical connection. It has taken the sense of community and made it global which in some respects may seem a positive step, but has taken away true physical, emotional, and intellectual connection - which is what teachers, good teachers can provide.
Teachers matter because when they are respected, paid adequately, given opportunity to research better approaches for themselves, create curriculums by themselves specifically for the children they teach they can do amazing things. Teachers can literally change the world by becoming the powerful connection, the emotive, passionate, socially motivated connection between a child and fact.
A conspiracy theorist would lay out an argument that the continued movement toward privatization of education and for-profit learning institutions would ensure that children are fed pre-prescribed, business focused content that would lead them to become 'yes' men or women in the future, only interested in climbing corporate ladders without a social conscience. It would make sense wouldn't it? Remove the one person a child has at becoming not only aware of facts and figures but aware of social issues, political issues, issues that affect more than just academic success.
Paul Zak in an article titled Why teachers are still necessary draws on neuroscience as a way to argue the importance of teachers rather than receiving information or 'education' exclusively from the screen of our laptops/Ipads/Iphones and tablets. He also eludes to teachers being the link between the fact and how students interpret and then use that fact to create ideas. He uses the term critical thinking as crucial to students challenging what they hear and read, not just being fed information.
This makes a great point and could create an argument as to why teachers are invaluable. Critical thinking helps to extend thinking beyond the factual, drawing from experience, insight, emotions, and predictions. It would stand to reason then that having a teacher as the medium for expanding children's thinking would lead to better long term prospects, creating career candidates that think outside the box, use initiative, are innovative and not candidates 'taught' by screens and empty facts who would only be prepared to go with the status quo, with potential for constant but underwhelming progress without ascending to any great heights.
Teachers have always and will always matter, but they need the respect anyone should deserve for working countless hours for disproportionate pay, all so our kids can grow up being empowered, informed, inspirational human beings. We need to do our best to make sure they always have a place in the classroom.